Sixth victim of Shivamogga mine blast identified after 7 months
More than seven months after six people were killed in a dynamite blast at a railway crusher site in Karnataka’s Hunasodu village in Shivamogga district, police have confirmed the identity of the sixth victim. After a series of tests at the Forensic Sciences Labs (FSL), police identified the sixth victim as 32-year-old Shashi who was an autorickshaw driver.
On January 22, a truck filled with gelatin sticks exploded at a gravel and boulder crushing facility, resulting in mild tremors in and around Shivamogga. In the investigation that followed, police were able to identify five victims of the blast -- Pawan Kumar (29), Javeed (28), Chelimanu Raju (24), Praveen (36), and Manjunath (35).
The body of the sixth victim could not be identified since it was completely mutilated in the blast. According to police, there was suspicion that the body belonged to Shahi, since he was missing since the incident. “We collected DNA samples from the family members of Shashi. These were analysed at the FSL, and it confirmed last week that it was the body of Shashi,” said a Shivamogga police official.
Close to a month after this blast, six men were killed in a dynamite blast in Karnataka’s Chikkabalapur district on 23 February, when they were allegedly trying to dispose of illegal explosives. Following the blast, after studying satellite images sourced from the National Remote Sensing Centre, the Department of Mines and Geology (DMG) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) had identified 532 illegal quarries in Chikkaballapur district in 2019.
The findings were mentioned in the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report as well, in which DMG was asked to take action against these illegal quarries. According to the report, at least 11.12 crore metric tonnes of specified and unspecified minerals were illegally extracted, causing a loss of ₹223.25 crore to the state.
Officials of DMG said there could be more than 2,000 illegal quarries across Karnataka. “There are around 450 licences issued for decorative stone quarries and 300 stone quarries. But there are many more quarries, we estimate it to be around 2,000,” said an official on the condition of anonymity.
Following the similar blast in Shivamogga, former chief minister Yediyurappa’s home constituency, on January 22, police had begun a state-wide crackdown on illegal explosives. This crackdown was intensified following the blast in Chikkabalapur. A total of 20 cases involving illegal explosives were registered since February this year, including 14 by the Internal Security Division (ISD).
Activists, however, claim that six months after these incidents, the crackdown on illegal mining in the state has come down. An activist based in Chikkabalapur said that the number of raids has come down. “Operations of the illegal mines which had stopped has restarted again in the district. The grey market in the district is active as well. We have told police about these we hope the action against illegal mines will die down,” said the activist on the condition of anonymity.
Senior police officers refuted the claim saying that the action against illegal mines in the state continues. A senior officer in charge of a range said that in Mandya district licenses of 11 illegal mines for not procuring environmental clearance from the authorities concerned. “If anyone has any specific information about illegal mining we will take action,” said the officer.